#2. Allowing Risky Play
The soundtrack to every young boy's play time is an adult voice saying "Get down from there!" or something like it (such as "You'll shoot your eye out!" or "You can't smoke that!"). That's the sound grown-ups make when you get up on the roof with the intention of seeing if you can skateboard right off into the pool.
"This still looks pretty tame. Maybe we could cover everything in broken glass?"
Researchers refer to it as "risky play" -- any form of playing with a risk of physical injury, usually performed outdoors without adult supervision. So, tree climbing, bike riding, rollerskating, somersaulting and raccoon wrestling all are forms of risky play. It's the kind of fun that today's parents have a hard time granting, because it requires letting kids out of the bounds of privacy-fenced, postage-sized yards. After all, how many kids a year die from tragic play-related injuries?
Instead of dead children, here's some budgies totally about to throw down.
The Surprising Benefit:
Yes, we actually do know how many children die each year due to risky play, and those numbers are very high ... on the Jack Shit Scale. All in all, injuries sustained by kids from falls and tumbles almost never result in any permanent damage, with death occurring basically never. Bruises and fractures are common, but they are a small price to pay considering the end result: protecting children from crippling phobias in their adult lives.
"Just a second, guys, I don't want to break my feet."
Psychologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology claim that children who are exposed to stimuli like heights or high speeds at an early age are less likely to fear them as they grow up ... especially if they get injured in the process. That's right: You face the sprained ankle, and you realize it's not the end of the world. So from then on, the ladder looks less scary. In fact, by exposing themselves to more and more dangerous forms of playing, children are basically doing what trained doctors recommend for patients trying to get over their fears -- a form of "cognitive behavioral therapy of anxiety."
"Just throw 'em under a car. They'll learn."
It's easy to forget that playing is a form of learning -- that's why we do it. And the whole "suicidal drive" that kids have on the playground seems to be an evolutionary imperative meant to acquaint our young with the real world and the many potential dangers it holds, specifically so that they can handle them later in life. The injuries are just part of the process.
So in the end, it seems parents will have to make a choice: Do they want to pay to treat their child's broken bones and bruises, or for their psychotherapy? Might want to check with your health insurance provider first.
#1. Obsessively Forcing Extracurricular Activities
We've spent a fair amount of time in this article mocking overprotective parents, giving the impression that you really just need to let kids go and let nature take its course. It seems obvious -- after all, what's worse than those parents who force their 5-year-olds to take lessons in tennis, violin and gymnastics, rather than just letting them be kids? You see these kids spending hours a day in practice and figure one day they'll just flip out and join a cult.
And then comes the dreaded "succubus and incubus" talk.
There's actually a term for this kind of oppressive parenting: "concerted cultivation." And just like with actual cultivation, it requires your child to eat a mountain of shit. As a response to this obviously wrong parenting trend, "free-range parenting" has lately started to become more and more popular.
"No, you can't come inside. But you're free to range about the backyard."
The Surprising Benefit:
The term "free-range parenting" is actually very apt because, just like "free-range chickens," it's completely bullshit.
A study titled "The 'Hurried' Child: Myth vs. Reality" from the University of Maryland concluded that scheduling a child's entire day can be very stressful and annoying ... for the parent. The kids, on the other hand, are apparently all thriving emotionally thanks to sports and art programs, and love every second of it. Among kids between the ages of 9 and 12 from 43 families, those who had participated in roughly two hours a day of organized activities were more active and socially mature, and had more self-esteem, than the kids left alone to explore the world on their own.
"Not seeing you and learning taekwondo have done wonders for me, Mother."
Taking an active part in your children's play time doesn't necessarily mean hovering over them constantly -- as with the candy thing, the key lies in moderation. They say a child shouldn't participate in more than two after-school activities at once, and that parents should be careful not to tire themselves out. If the kid seems annoyed, it's entirely possible that he likes soccer, but doesn't like hearing you bitch about how you're constantly having to drive him to soccer.
Because the kids are probably fine. They're more durable than we give them credit for.
"After I'm done pooping, I'm fitting the entire ball in your mouth."
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance English-Japanese-Polish translator, tour guide and writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For ways we're ruining our children, check out 7 Things 'Good Parents' Do (That Screw Up Kids For Life). Or discover the 5 Horrific Ways Bad Parents Turn Their Kids Into Good Money.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see the proper way to spank your child when he steals your Skyrim.
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